Closer look at burglaries during Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew flooded homes, uprooted trees, and left people cleaning up for weeks afterward. But some of the damage during the hurricane was not caused by nature, but by people who took advantage of the evacuations and burglarized homes. News 2 took a close look at police reports from the City of Charleston, North Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, and Charleston County, and from those areas along there are close to 100 reports of burglary during Hurricane Matthew.

One burglary victim, Melinda Laurens, says, “You just feel violated, it’s an awful feeling.”

Her home was burglarized after her family evacuated on Friday before Hurricane Matthew hit the Lowcountry.

She says, “We have the security system, but we left so quick that I neglected to turn it on.”

The burglars waded through several feet of water and broke in through a side door. The stole multiple firearms totaling over $7,000.

Laurens’ son, Henry, says, “It kind of disgusts you that during an emergency like that, a crisis, where there’s a mandatory evacuation and we are under a state of emergency, that someone would have the nerve to break into someone’s house when they’re not there.”

But there are many more stories like this one during the hurricane across the Lowcountry. All types of items were stolen, from electronics, to jewelry, and even an oven and a clarinet. And the cost of these items? More than $100,000 worth of property reported stolen in city and county of Charleston reports.

Sgt. Trevor Shelor, Crime Prevention Officer with the Charleston Police Department, says, “The majority of home burglaries happen through an unsecured window or unsecured door. It’s a window you forgot to close, door you forgot to latch, or a doggie door that is just too big.”

He says before you leave, double check that everything is closed and make preparations so that it looks like you’re home.

Sgt. Shelor says, “Leave lights on on the inside, leave lights on timers, if you’re going to be gone a really long time ask a trusted neighbor to maybe move a car in the drive way or something like that, or change some of the different lights.”

And don’t broadcast your trip, don’t put it on social media or tell too many people that you’re leaving.

Sgt. Shelor says, “Somebody’s got some grandkid, ex brother in law, something, that now knows you’re gone and your house is ripe for the picking.”

He also recommends when you come home from a trip, take a lap around the house before going inside. Look for anything unusual, like a broken window or open door. If you see that, call the police immediately in case the burglar is still inside.

Police also recommend investing in a security system. And when you leave the house, hide your valuables. They say you should take jewelry, laptops, and game consoles, anything that can be spotted through a window, and hide it in an obscure location where a burglar wouldn’t see it by peeking in your window.

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